Razorbacks Rebound with Big Win

Arkansas safety Lerinezo Robinson leaned his battered body against his locker Saturday night, counting the lumps after the Razorbacks' 49-20 win against Louisiana-Monroe.

There was the twisted knee sustained on a pass play in the second quarter. There was the leg whip that re-aggravated an ankle injury and forced him off the field late in the half. Finally, there was his bruised backside, the result of a hard fall that took Robinson's breath away after a third-quarter interception.

Through it all, Robinson and the Hogs earned their second win of the season.

But getting over last week's 22-20 loss against then-No. 7 Texas wasn't as simple as they hoped.

Quarterback Matt Jones and the offense had a field day against Louisiana-Monroe, rolling to 571 yards and 7 touchdowns. But the defense had to fight off a Louisiana-Monroe passing attack that kept the first half much more interesting than the crowd of 55,652 in War Memorial Stadium imagined.

"It's not a cakewalk," said Arkansas tailback De'Arrius Howard. "They came out to play. They had some big-time plays."

The Razorbacks (2-1) got off to a good start when linebacker Pierre Brown recovered a fumble on the first play from scrimmage after a successful ULM on-side kickoff. Tailback DeCori Birmingham scored a 1-yard touchdown on Arkansas' first possession and Jones found receiver Steven Harris for a 10-yard score, giving the Hogs took a quick 14-0 lead with 7 minutes, 16 seconds still left in the first quarter.

But Louisiana-Monroe quarterback Steven Jyles battled back, finding plenty of room in Arkansas' secondary in the first half.

Jyles led the Indians to 20 points before the break by completing seven passes for 15 yards or more. His longest completion, a 77-yard touchdown to receiver Drouzon Quillen, cut the Razorbacks' lead to 21-17 in the second quarter.

Arkansas answered with Howard's 11-yard touchdown run, but the Indians moved back down the field on their next possession. Jyles led ULM (0-2) on a 12-play, 51-yard drive capped by Ragan Walters' 25-yard field goal that made it 28-20.

"We came out and a lot of guys made a lot of good plays," Jyles said. "We have playmakers all over the field."

Jyles completed 16 of 22 passes for 96 yards in Louisiana-Monroe's 31-0 loss at Auburn on Sept. 4.

But the junior bettered that in the first half against Arkansas, completing 13 of 25 passes for 278 yards and a touchdown.

"I thought in the second quarter we had some adversity hit us and they answered a couple of scores," said Arkansas coach Houston Nutt, who earned his 50th win in his seventh season with the Hogs. "I thought we stayed together. I thought that was really good for us.

"You don't like it sometimes as a coach, but I think we grew up a little bit together, stayed together and made some adjustments."

The good news was that Arkansas' offense still was potent Saturday night.

Birmingham, Howard, Harris and freshmen Marcus Monk and Peyton Hillis scored touchdowns in the first half, leading the Razorbacks to 317 yards before the break (184 passing, 133 rushing). The Razorbacks' offense -- which scored six touchdowns in 30 minutes against New Mexico State -- had the last word of the half, stretching the lead to 35-20 on Hillis' 1-yard run with 51 seconds left.

"It's absolutely necessary to answer right back," Harris said. "If they make a play on our defense, we have to have our defense's back and make a play in return. We always have to take away that hope."

Jones completed 18 of 28 passes for 272 yards and a career-high 4 TDs, leading the Hogs to their 17th consecutive win in Little Rock under Nutt. His four touchdown passes also equaled the Arkansas single-game mark and pushed Jones into a tie with former quarterback Clint Stoerner for the career record in touchdown responsibility (62).

Jones has thrown 43 touchdowns passes and rushed for 19 more.

"Matt is a great quarterback as we've known since this summer," Nutt said. "He does some great things for us to get the ball to receivers and get us out of trouble."

He had plenty of help Saturday in Birmingham, Howard and Harris.

Birmingham and Howard gave the Hogs a one-two punch out of the backfield, rushing for 127 and 109 yards, respectively. Harris turned in the biggest game of his career, catching six passes for 133 yards and 2 scores.

The Razorbacks began to breathe easy in the third quarter when Monk caught his second touchdown pass and Robinson collected his second interception at the goal-line on Louisiana-Monroe's next possession. Arkansas scored one more time in the fourth quarter -- Harris' 11-yard touchdown catch -- to stretch the lead to 49-20.

In the end, Arkansas' defense settled at halftime and slowed Louisiana-Monroe's offense in the second half, holding the Indians to 65 yards after the break and forcing four turnovers.

Jyles finished 14 of 31 for 298 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.

"The difference in this game was turnovers," said Louisiana-Monroe coach Charlie Weatherbie.

Now the Hogs can shift their focus toward Southeastern Conference play. Arkansas faces Alabama (a 52-0 winner against Western Carolina Saturday night) next Saturday in Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

"We came out a little flat, and it showed," Robinson said. "We had a good talk at halftime about, ‘Every game counts.' We knew that wasn't us in the first half.

"We tried to come out in the second half and shut them out."


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